Pride Toronto (PT) recently put out a call asking for more women’s representation on its board, and the community has responded.
The group of nine nominees for the board is the most diverse in recent memory and includes six women.
Pride will fill five board vacancies at its annual general meeting, which will be held Oct 25 at 6:30pm at the new Mattamy Athletic Centre in Maple Leaf Gardens, at 50 Carlton St.
PT chair Francisco Alvarez did not respond to several requests for comment.
Pride is filling the position of former co-chair Luka Amona, who recently left the board for personal reasons.
The board will also be releasing its year-end report, selecting a theme for the 2013 festival and presenting its audited financial statements. Alvarez previously told Xtra that he expects Pride to show a surplus this year.
The suggested theme choices for Pride 2013 include Super Queer, Come Together and The World Is Coming.
Board hopefuls will make their case to PT members and detail why they should be elected to help lead Pride for the next three years.
Communications professional, journalist and community organizer Lauryn Kronick is vying for a position. Kronick is a strong local advocate with more than three years of experience organizing in the queer community in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto.
She served on the Capital Pride board in 2011 after joining the festival as media relations coordinator in 2010. She later took on the position of vice-chair of communications. She has also been an organizing leader with Toronto’s Dyke March and frequently contributes to Xtra.
“Toronto’s Pride board needs more diverse representation with women, people of colour and trans folks,” she says. “I believe Toronto Pride should focus on supporting a grassroots organizing model. This year, Pride was very successful in that.”
Kronick points to the newly formed group Queers for Social Justice as evidence that PT is taking steps to reconnect with its activist roots.
“This year felt really positive in moving back toward a community-driven Pride, and I want to see things continue in that direction,” she says. “Even though Pride is a party, it will always have a strong political element to it. We must never forget our past, but we all have to work together to move forward.”
Toronto City Hall remains a battleground for the Pride board. Last month, the mayor’s executive committee asked the city manager to rewrite the city’s anti-discrimination policy to prohibit criticism of Israel, specifically banning the phrase “Israel apartheid,” which would effectively ban the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) from Pride.
Lawyer Paul Jonathan Saguil says he supports Pride’s position.
“Any group has a right to march as long as they don’t breach the City of Toronto’s current policy,” says Saguil, who is also vying for a board position.
Saguil is the vice-chair of the Ontario Bar Association’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Section and is a board director of the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers.
“What I can bring to the board is expertise at looking at issues through the framework of legal and policy analysis,” he says. “Many of these issues that Pride Toronto has had to tackle in the recent past have had a legal lens to them. My practical experience can really assist the board in its decision-making.”
Saguil, a Filipino Canadian, says he will bring a unique cultural perspective to the board. “I don’t feel there is enough ethnic distribution on the board.”
For all board members, working toward a successful WorldPride in 2014 is a key goal.
Nominee Kerry Bell says her background in event planning, entertainment and youth mentoring will be a valuable asset for Pride as it plans for the international festival.
Bell is a new Canadian who recently moved to Toronto from Jamaica, “considered one of the most homophobic countries in the world,” she says.
“There are many LGBTQ people here who don’t know how good they have it, perhaps because they have never left the province or the country,” she says.
Bell says Toronto’s queer community has welcomed her with open arms. She says that’s why she gives back by serving on the board of the 519 Church Street Community Centre and volunteering with Pride Toronto.
“I am a very strong black woman and a woman who has been persecuted for my sexuality,” she says. “I am also a woman with 12 years of large-scale event planning, so I feel that I can truly represent the LGBTQ community and the diversity of Toronto. I hope people can empathize with my journey and be proud of what I have achieved.”
In 2011, writer Christin Milloy, an information technology professional, made history as the first out trans candidate to run in a Canadian provincial election. Since then, Milloy has been visible as a local and provincial activist, advocating for trans rights and gay-straight alliances for queer youth.
For Milloy, accessibility at Pride is a top priority. “A perfect example is Pride’s headquarters is in a building that is not wheelchair accessible,” she says.
Milloy says one of the biggest challenges for Pride will be securing funding from the private sector as WorldPride inches closer. “Pride needs to start sourcing private funding.”
During Pride 2012, Milloy organized the break-off Trans March, leading a group of hundreds on an extra-long route down Yonge Street and up University Avenue, making a point of swinging by Queen’s Park before returning to the Village.
“I sincerely hope that is not necessary again this year,” she says. “One of my goals is to ensure the Trans March is a political demonstration that takes place on the main streets of Toronto.”
Milloy has been a member of the Trans Lobby Group, which was a strong voice at Queen’s Park in the push for the passage of Toby’s Law. She has also contributed to Xtra.
Also running for the board is Erika Manata, a former Dyke March coordinator; Tim Guram, a museum, festival and culture organizer; Kent Churn, a partner at Accenture; Caroline O-Toole, a banking professional who has served on the Ontario Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and volunteers with Pride at Work Canada; and Shelly Craig, an assistant professor of social work at the University of Toronto who has served on the PFLAG national board in the US.
The other candidates were not available for comment.
Pride Toronto board candidate profiles 2012